Broad, colorful paint strokes fill the paper of the latest art project by Eldy Fajardo, 17, who enjoys spending time in the hematology/oncology playroom at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.
The younger patients look on in admiration of Eldy’s artistry and are eager to see what she is crafting.
Eldy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2014 and has been in and out of the hospital ever since, relapsing several times. The hematology/oncology playroom has become like a second home.
She first came to the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute at Miller Children’s & Women’s in 2017, and despite all the obstacles that have come her way, Eldy has become a strong, caring, independent young woman, with a smile and positive attitude to match.
“She lights up our playrooms,” says Allison Singhi, child life specialist, Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Program. “Eldy is always making friends, even with the younger kids, and she’s always participating in the playroom activities.”
Eldy’s mom is able to be by her side through her treatments, but unfortunately distance has separated Eldy from the rest of her family. She had to travel a long distance from her home to receive the specialized pediatric care needed to treat her condition.
“Having my mom here with me on this journey has been a blessing,” says Eldy. “My father and siblings might not be here in person, but we FaceTime and talk on the phone all the time. Even though my family may be miles away, they still give me the strength and faith to keep going.”
The Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute has a Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program for adolescents, like Eldy. The program helps patients cope with unique challenges like missing out on family and normal adolescent experiences. Through the program, patients have access to the latest treatment alternatives and clinical trials to enhance outcomes, as well as expert psychological care specifically for their age group, including school re-integration and college counseling.
A recent example of how the Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Institute tried to normalize the hospital experience was the “Let’s Glow Crazy” Prom 2019, hosted in partnership with A Friend In Me Foundation.
Eldy, who attended last year’s prom, began planning for this year’s event weeks before receiving her invitation. She began to envision and plan for the dress she wanted, what color nails, and how she was going to do her hair.
A Friend In Me works with the Teen & Young Adult Program to organize a prom fitting where patients can choose their dream dress or tuxedo, shoes and more. All the items are donated by local vendors who come together to give the kids a night to remember.
Although, she was currently undergoing treatment for her condition, Eldy was not going to let leukemia hold her back. On the day of prom, Eldy’s vision began to come to life.
Not only did Eldy make it to prom that night, but she was crowned the prom queen, complete with a sash and tiara.
“Prom was an amazing night,” says Eldy. “It was nice just to be a teen again, dance and see my friends. I was able to take my mind off treatment and just be a normal kid.”
Now back in her patient room with her prom queen sash and artwork decorating the walls, Eldy sits back to relax with her mom.
“Miller Children’s & Women’s has become like a second home and my whole care team — everyone in the Child Life Program, my doctors, the nurses — have become like family to my mom and I,” says Eldy. “No matter how far I have to go or how long I have to fight, I know I’m not doing it alone.”
Eldy, with the wisdom of a woman far beyond her age, confidently believes that with faith, family and her care team there is nothing she couldn’t accomplish.